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In support of sales reps.

I recently went shopping for a new car, an activity just above root canal work on the list of things I like. It's not so much the expense or fear of buying a lemon that makes me apprehensive, but the fact that I have to hear an auto dealer's sales pitch.

Of all the jobs in the world, probably none is more stereotyped than the salesperson's. Our impressions usually take several forms, ranging from the pathetic Willy Lomans of the world, who try to eke out an existence in a high-pressure field, to the fast-talking Joe Isuzu of current TV commercials, who tells fantastic lies in order to clinch his sale.

In the laboratory, we are fortunate to deal with a better class of salespeople. By and large, the representatives who call on us daily are a cut or two above average. As vendors of technical supplies and equipment, they must be well educated and well versed in the performance of their wares. Because laboratory sales representatives must demonstrate technical knowledge, the field is an attractive career option pursued by many medical technologists.

No matter what the product, however, all sales representatives work from the same premise: Sell or go hungry. We have to keep this in mind when individuals declare their product the panacea for whatever ails the laboratory.

Used properly, sales representatives can be an asset to customers. In a laboratory of any size, the manager cannot be ex know the ins and outs of every piece of equipment or test kit. Knowledgeable sales reps should act as consultants, providing valuable information about a product's impact on lab operations. They also play an important role guiding potential customers on site visits to see instruments in use, and as lab-manufacturer liaison during and after the sale.

As valuable as a sales representative's advice might be, we would be somewhat negligent if we accepted it at face value. Over the years I have seen some vendor proposals that would qualify as fiction in literary circles. Any vendor proposal is naturally geared toward putting a product in the most favorable light possible. Therefore, take proposals with a grain of salt.

But in all fairness to sales representatives, they can't really be expected to comprehend the full operation of your laboratory. Thus they often provide unrealistic proposals, citing favorable reagent consumption, throughput time, personnel savings, etc.

To overcome this problem, a formal vendor's proposal should incorporate the laboratory supervisor's and manager's input, and should be carefully reviewed after it is submitted for consideration. Only then should you forward a proposal to hospital administration as the basis for justifying a new program or instrument. Under no circumstances should a vendor be allowed to give hospital administration a proposal without laboratory input or review.

To best use sales reps' talents, try to establish a good rapport. Treat them as professionals and expect the same in return.

If a sales representative schedules an appointment with you, give him or her your undivided attention and allow sufficient time for product explanations. If you are really not interested, don't take the easy route by saying, "I'll get back to you." Instead, state up front that the product doesn't serve your current needs. For their part, sales reps should schedule appointments ahead of time, take care not to overextend their welcome, and, perhaps most important, learn how to take no for an answer.

Having been a salesman for a period of time early in my career, I can attest to the fact that it is a difficult, high-pressure occupation. Let's not aggravate sales reps problems by treating them in a less than professional manner. Be open with them. More often than not, they will reciprocate and become a valuable asset to your laboratory operation.

The author is administrator of the clinical laboratories at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia.
COPYRIGHT 1987 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Maratea, James M.
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Article Type:column
Date:Nov 1, 1987
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